This open-air Rocket is a high-revving featherweight on four wheels
Back in 1991, racing driver Chris Craft and engineering mastermind Gordon Murray set up the Light Car Company to produce the Rocket, a tubular-chassis car powered by a 1000cc Yamaha motorcycle engine that revved to 11,000 rpm and weighing, in total, roughly 380 kilograms (less than 850 pounds).
At the time, there were few other lightweight options on the market—mainly just Caterhams and old fiberglass-bodied Minis—and none of these alternatives had the power-to-weight ratio or the central-seating arrangement to match the Rocket’s driving experience.
The Rocket quickly turned into a limited-production case study that the British government wouldn’t even classify as a car, given how light it was. Interestingly enough, because the Rocket weighed less than 400 kilograms, it technically qualified as a quadricycle in the U.K., not a car. Of course such legal rulings wouldn’t trouble Jay Leno, who bought a red one to park next to his black McLaren F1 over 25 years ago.
Along with a motorcycle engine that revved to the moon, the Rocket had a high- and low-ratio six-speed sequential gearbox that essentially meant you had 12 forward gears. It also had manual pop-up headlights with carbon housings that tucked away under the bodywork—as well as the world’s greatest badges.
Early Rockets featured analog gauges and a fuel cell on top of the engine. However, the Light Car Company stayed in business until 1998, and the later Phase 2 model driven by Henry Catchpole in this video is a race-bodied variant with upgraded brakes, a digital dash, no fog lights, and the fuel tank relocated where your passenger was supposed to go. After all, you wouldn’t want to spoil that lightweight ethos with another passenger. Plus, as Henry explains, there’s a very real chance that your passenger wouldn’t fit.